Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic is the first to report that the New York Yankees and Baltimore Orioles’ discussions surrounding closer Zach Britton have started to escalate, with New York emerging as a “clear front-runner” in the sweepstakes. Pitching prospect Dillon Tate has been scratched from his start in Double-A Trenton, but Rosenthal has made clear that “no deal is complete.”
The ninth-ranked prospect in the Yankees’ system (according to MLB Pipeline), Tate would serve a rather small return for the Orioles, who are currently shopping the best reliever on the market in Britton. SNY’s own Andy Martino is tweeting that the teams are “well down the road,” reviewing medicals of a package that would include Tate and more, although utility man Brandon Drury likely does not fit into the otherwise unspecified package (Jon Heyman, Fancred Sports).
The 30-year old lefty, who has struggled with injuries across the past two seasons, is a free agent at the end of the season. Despite the forearm strain and Achilles surgery that have limited him to just 54 appearances, Britton ranked fourth in the 2016 AL Cy Young vote for a reason, as he converted every one of his 47 save opportunities while posting a 0.89 ERA.
A 3.71 FIP since doesn’t seem likely to spell either Aroldis Chapman or a white-hot Dellin Betances from a closing role at the top of the depth chart, but he would certainly be an upgrade in a bullpen that has dominated this year, but is looking to push the envelope.
UPDATE: The two sides have come to an agreement, according to Jon Heyman. The details have come in from a few different angles on Twitter, but assuming all physicals check out, the Yankees will receive Britton, while Baltimore will get back Tate and a few below-the-headline prospects.
Andy Martino has also added that right-handed reliever Cody Carroll (15th-ranked prospect according to MLB Pipeline) will likely head over to the Orioles with Tate. Carroll, 25, has a 2.68 ERA and 1.24 WHIP in four minor league seasons, averaging 10.1 K/9.
Triple-A left-hander Josh Rogers (unranked) may also factor into the deal, speculates Joel Sherman of the New York Post. Per Sherman, Baltimore has interest in the 23-year old lefty, and is expected to receive a third pitcher in the deal for Britton.
Exact salary details remain unclear at the moment, although for both teams, the remaining portion of his $4.5M seems unlikely to put much of a dent in the framework of the deal, since the Yankees have wiggle room ($16M, per Sherman) beneath the luxury tax threshold. We will keep you updated as information continues to come in.